Winter Walking: Making It Work

Cold weather doesn't mean you have to give up fitness walking. Outside or in, here are tips to keep you walking through the winter.
Published December 22, 2019

It's the winter walker's dilemma: to venture outside into the cold for a workout, or stay toasty warm on a home treadmill.

Thankfully, just because it's cold outside doesn't mean your walking routine has to undergo a temporary freeze.

Indoors or out?

Both treadmills and outdoor walking have their pros and cons. Walking on a treadmill is easier on the body than walking on pavement, says Lon Wilson, director of the Healthwalking program for the New York Road Runners Club, and the weather can never be a deterrent. However, the routine can get monotonous, and you can get slightly shortchanged on conditioning since the belt does some of the work for you. Setting the incline to 1.0 will provide a more challenging workout.

Venturing outside for your walks offers a change of scenery and terrain, which can help stave off boredom. And because no equipment is needed, the financial investment is minimal. And you can work in a walk just about anytime, anywhere. Of course, winter weather can make walking unpleasant, and there are always safety hazards — uneven sidewalks, vehicular traffic, and secluded spots — to avoid.

Winter walking: All about the layers

Just because it's winter doesn't mean you can't hit the streets or sidewalks for your workout. You just need to be prepared for the weather. When gearing up for a walk outside while the weather is still cold, think in layers so that you can peel off clothing as you warm up or add it if you get chilly. Here are some helpful hints for what to wear, from the inside out:


Make sure your underwear waistband isn't digging into your hips. You've got to be comfortable. But keep in mind that you'll be moving around a lot, so treat layer number one like sportswear and opt for something snug.


Your second layer should be a synthetic material, such as CoolMax or polypropylen to keep skin dry, which work to wick sweat away from the body. The garments should also be seamless — clothing with thick inner seams may irritate the skin.


If needed, wear fleece for insulation, and top it off with a waterproof jacket. When it's below freezing, wear a scarf over your mouth to warm the air you're breathing.